60 Booklist July2017 www.booklistreader.com
sixth-grader Karma Khullar. There’s a lot of
upheaval in Karma’s life as summer draws to
a close, and sprouting a mustache is just icing
on the cake. Her father has recently become
unemployed, and her mother’s time is being
consumed by a new full-time job. Plus, some-
thing indefinable has shifted between Karma
and her long-time best friend Sara. While
floundering amid these changes, Karma, who
is half Indian, latches on to the Sikh teaching
of karma and tries to alter her seemingly cursed
start to middle school. Karma’s mixed heritage
keeps this book from becoming standard fare,
and Wientge does a nice job of organically in-
corporating it into the plot. Though Karma’s
agonizing can be excessive, it accurately reflects
the tween state of mind. Funny and relatable,
this is a solid pick for those transitioning to
middle school. —Julia Smith
The Magic Misfits.
By Neil Patrick Harris.
Sept. 2017. 224p. Little, Brown, $16.99
(9780316391825); e-book, $9.99 (9780316355582).
Actor Harris brings his passion for stage
magic to his delightful middle-grade debut.
Carter has lived a hardscrabble life with his
uncle, an unkind man who teaches him to use
slight-of-hand tricks to steal. An unwilling
accomplice to these thefts, Carter runs away
to Mineral Wells, where he meets jovial Mr.
Vernon and five kids with a talent for magic.
After spending an evening at B. B. Bosso’s
Carnival, the five “Magic Misfits” realize that
Bosso is planning a major theft, and Carter
devises a plan to bring Bosso’s criminal opera-
tion down. Magic is a key ingredient to this
book’s success, both as an art form and com-
ponent of belonging. Carter sees his jaded
attitude transformed through his friendship
with the Magic Misfits, a wonderfully diverse
group of talented oddballs. Harris employs
a conversational narrator that periodically
breaks from the story to address the reader,
often instructing them in how to perform
a magic trick. The approachable length and
lively, funny writing will ensure this book, the
first in a series, performs its own vanishing act
from shelves. —Julia Smith
HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Kids are
sure to be dazzled by the publisher’s six-figure
marketing and publicity campaign, not to
mention NPH’s recent stint in The Series of
Unfortunate Events Netflix series. Take heed.
The Player King.
Oct. 2017. 208p. Atheneum, $16.99 (9781481437684).
In 1486, Oxford, England, a lad named
Lambert works, sleeps, and lives at Tack-ley’s Tavern. A friar lifts him out of hunger
and poverty in exchange for his learning to
play the role of the Earl of Warwick (heir of
Richard III) not on stage, but in earnest. He
agrees and subsequently rallies others to rise
up against King Henry VII in order to place
himself on the throne. It’s a fool’s game, since
others are plotting to kill the young pretender
once the Tudors are overthrown. Can he win
the kingdom or, failing that, his life? Told
from Lambert’s point of view, the first-person
narrative effectively avoids the complicated
political backstory and focuses on the boy’s
experiences as he learns the unfamiliar speech,
manners, and knowledge and plays his part.
Avi, whose Newbery Award-winning Crispin
(2002) was set in fourteenth-century England, again makes the past vivid and personal
in this relatively short, accessible book. An
author’s note reveals what is known of the actual Lambert Simnel, whose story inspired the
novel. —Carolyn Phelan
The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade.
By Jordan Sonnenblick.
Aug. 2017. 208p. Scholastic, $16.99 (9780545863209).
Disheartened that he’s unable to protect
his mother from her latest abusive boyfriend,
Maverick decides to model his sixth-grade persona on his favorite superheroes (Spider-Man
and Captain America) by doing good deeds
and protecting smaller, weaker kids at school.
“Assuming I could find anybody smaller or
weaker than I was.” From his first official visit
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